Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Comics shelfie: Inés Estrada

It's been a while since the last comics shelfie, the reasons for which have been a mixture of my busyness and not having the time to reach out to people, and also the cartoonists who I'd like to see featured on here being a lot busier then I am. The comics shelfie feature relies solely on cartoonists' time, goodwill, and participation to exist, and I'd like to reiterate how grateful I am for that and to everyone who has contributed. Hopefully, I've got things lined up to a point where it can have a regular slot and gather steam once more.

Today, it's the excellent Inés Estrada who is showing us around her book and comics collection. I've written about Estrada's work quite a bit, so I don't want to regurgitate what makes her such a good artist (I feel like the effect of repetition diminishes), but will instead simply direct you to her website to find out more, and her Tumblr, which I find the easiest way to keep up with what work she's putting out. I'd also like to point you towards a couple of her newer comics which are available to read online, in full and for free: the first is Sindaclismo 89, which she published with Breakdown Press, and the second is this short comic she did recently, featuring a bicycling raccoon which I really enjoyed. Over to Inés for the good stuff:

'Hey! What's up, welcome to my room... I just moved to Texas this year from Mexico City and left most of my book collection in boxes at my mom's house like I guess anyone with a mom does once they move to another country.

Books are one of my favorite things and I really miss all my books! I love looking at them, reading them and making them... so naturally I already managed to scrounge up a stash at my new place. This the main place I keep them at... yeah, that's a box I just nailed into the wall!

On top is this humongous book I got from Helge Reumann, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a residency in Minneapolis called Pierre Feuille Ciseaux. It's a collection of silent black and white strips about an apocaliptic wasteland that might as well be our future. The printing is offest and it's beautiful, the insides were printed with black twice and the ink does come off as a very deep black.

Check out that box I nailed to the wall! I keep mostly zines in it and random paper stuff. On the left is Seth Scriver's latest comic, Blob Top Magazine #2, published (and also beautifully printed) by Colour Code. There's a Charles Burns notebook peeking out, a drawing of an Iguana a friend made for me and also this birthday card my partner Edwin gave me, with a suicidal Bugs Bunny. Also peeking behind is one of my favorite books, "The Book of Cats" by Edgars Folks.

I found this at a used bookshop in Latvia that Sanita (the co-editor of the awesome Latvian comics anthology Kuš!) took me to. Inside it's all trippy ilustrations of cats made by this latvian artist Edgars Folks. I love it!

Another favorite is the first issue from Aisha Franz' new series Shit is Real. It's about heartbreak and the future! It's awesome and I can't wait to read the next issues. Aisha always manages to merge beautiful art with honest, complex stories and it's always really gratifying to read her work.

Here's a look at my "currently reading pile". Just got the newest zines from the Gilmore Boyz, aka Grant Gronewold and Simon Hanselmann. Looking forward to reading that and having some sad laughs. Below there is this novel from John Steinbeck I'm half-way through reading (in spanish, because I get tired of living in english!), then the newest desirable european anthologies: Mould Map and Volcan. I have finished reading Volcan but to be honest the content doesn't match up the the book itself as an object. It is a beautiful book to hold and browse, but some of the comics were a bit lacking, not only in story but also visually... even in spite of the nice printing. It does have some good stuff like some of my favorite current cartoonists (Oliver Shrauwen, Aidan Koch, Baptiste Virot, Carlos Gonzalez) and also an awesome reprint from Fletcher Hanks. I can say it was still a good acquisition. Mould Map 4 is really great and keeps up with the quality and futuristic vision of the previous issues. This one is specifically about Europe and I think takes a very particular, but also broad look at the subject which is refreshing. I've already read all of it, but I keep flipping it again and rereading some parts. The comics are good, my favorites were from both Sadler brothers, Brecht Vandenbroucke and Roope Eronen. Unexpectedly, what I enjoyed the most were the interview with Ingo Niermann (whose work I didn't know before) and the article about Frigidaire Magazine from Italy.

Another thing I just got from Landfill Editions (who put out Mould Map): the new comic from the finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo, Pure Shores. I was super happy when I heard Jaakko had returned to making comics and this lived up to my excitement. His drawing style now is a lot more loose, but it works well for the story, which has a very passionate pace. It's about a love story in the future! Which I guess is a theme now? I'm working something in that vein for my next comic so it's very enriching to see what other people are doing with such concepts.

Also on top of my plastic drawers I have this collection of Russian tattoos from Fuel. It's really interesting to read and fun to look at. I flip through these ones often.

One of the few things I brought with me from Mexico, this H.P. Lovecraft book that belonged to my dad in the 70s (it has his name on the inside cover!) It's a collection of short stories featuring this dimension traveling character, Randolph Carter and it's really good.

This is our living room. Most of the stuff there is Edwin's. He also painted that melting guy, the orange is actually neon so it's really intense! I love it. You can also see I sneaked in this iridescent unicorn figure I got at the thrift store in his toy collection hehe

I keep a few books in the bookshelf here that don't fit in my room. This is a great anthology from South Korea called Quang Comics. The way the books are made is really cool, they have some french flaps that you have to tear to open the book when it's new. The content is in full colour and also pretty good, I can't read the comics but luckily many of them are silent! One of my favorite artist in both of this issues is Lee Kyutae.

That's all for now! I got really into this. Thank you for reading and thank you Zainab for inviting me to talk about my books!'

A massive thank you to Inés for her time and participation. You can view all the previous installments of comics shelfie here. Next installment will be up in a month.

Sam Bosma's Fantasy Sports returns with 'The Bandit of Barbel Bay'

Sam Bosma announced on Twitter last Thursday the news of a follow-up book to Fantasy Sports, his very well-received and irrepressibly fun quest-adventure comic, published earlier this year by Nobrow. Bosma's Fantasy Sports originally began life as a black-and-white, self-published work, titled Fantasy Basketball, so when Nobrow picked it up and released a full-colour, large-format hardback and slightly expanded edition as Fantasy Sports 1, the numeration was obviously a sign of intent for what is shaping up to be a series of books. This second book, Fantasy Sports 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay, will continue the story of unlikely partners Wiz and Mug, in Spring 2016, as the duo return in a new adventure which promises to reveal more about Wiz and her background (an origin possibly involving a baseball diamond), as they seek to uncover mysterious secrets while having some fun in the sun:

'Wiz and Mug’s adventures continue when a misunderstood teleportation spell accidentally drops them off in a ruined beach town. When the town’s amphibious inhabitants confront Wiz and Mug with the revelation that the United Order of Mages may not be exactly what it seems, a new, beach volleyball tournament begins!'

Bosma's an incredibly skilled cartoonists and illustrator, so it's fantastic to see his work gain more visibility and recognition in this way. Having bought and read the original self-published iteration of the first comic, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the new Nobrow edition, and by how different it felt. Much of that was due to the larger format: being able to see and appreciate the detail of Bosma's art, and the extra dimension provided by experiencing it in colour. As excellent as his black and white art is, Bosma has a superb sense of colour, which adds a whole other dimension to a book like Fantasy Sports, going quite a way to adding to its dynamism and lively tone. That much is evident, again, from the cover art for the new book shown above; the blues and greens give it a real freshness, and the expressiveness is fantastic. It's an excellent cover. I'm really looking forward to this, and if you haven't caught the first book yet,  now's the time to get on board; it's a great amalgamation of magic, sports, mystery, and fun.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Kodansha announce new, full-colour Attack On Titan anthology with Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Ronald Wimberly, Afua Richardson, Babs Tarr, and more

By Tomer and Asaf Hanuka

Some interesting news announced at New York Comic Con: Kodansha will be publishing a 250-page, full-colour Attack on Titan comics anthology that will feature all non-Japanese creators for the first time. Due for release in autumn next year, the anthology will be printed at American comic 'issue' size instead of the smaller manga format, and boasts an intriguing and varied line up of writers, artists, and cartoonists- Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Ronald Wimberly, Afua Richardson, Kevin Wada, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Faith Erin Hicks, Kate Leth & Jeremy Lambert, Michael Oeming, Paolo Rivera, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and Genevieve Valentine. Written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan began serialisation in Bessatsu Shōnen magazine in 2009 and has since become -rather fittingly- a mammoth, monster hit, with 44 million copies of the first 15 volumes in print in Japanese, and 2.5 million copies of the English-language volumes in print. The story is a post-apocalyptic one of sorts, as the last vestiges of humanity struggle to survive in cities encased by huge walls, built to keep out the human-eating giant Titans, who nobody really seems to know the origins of, or much about in general. The comics success has led to a number of spin-off tiles and series, live-action films, and an immensely popular anime adaptation.

Talking to Brigid Alverson, Random House's associate director of publishing services, Ben Applegate, who also oversees the editorial team at Kodansha Comics, discussed how the authors involved in the Attack on Titan anthology had been given a free reign to come up with new characters and approaches, 'We're trying to create a book with a wide variety of stories, so I want to start with what the creators are interested in doing and go from there. So far, we've got a few serious stories in the Titan continuity, a few stories involving Titans in new settings, and a few completely off-the-wall comedy pieces.' The book will comprise of comics ranging from 5 to 25 pages, as well as pin-ups. 

I really like the concept of Attack of Titan and bought the first 3 volumes on that basis, but found the time and technicality afforded to the aerial fights between the Titans and people convoluted and boring, in addition to there being too many characters to keep up with. The bits in between were good, but not enough to convince me to continue, although I am now thinking of giving it a second pass. I'm interested to see this project, largely due to the enlisting of some excellent contributors (specifically the first four in the line-up above), and because it  seems to be one of those things that will be accessible to people who aren't familiar with Attack on Titan in addition to those who are. No doubt that's one of the aims of the book; to get readers and followers of some of these very popular American creators aware of Attack of Titan and hope that translates into further sales of the main manga.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

With pound in hand: October comic and graphic novel releases

Here we go- picking out the cream of this month's releases, in graphic novels, collected editions and anything else notable.

PICK OF THE MONTH: Marquis of Anaon 2; The Black Virgin by Matthie Bonhomme and Fabien Vehlmann, Cinebook: My final contribution to The AV Club's comics panel was a review of The Isle of Brac, the first book in Fabien Vehlmann's and Matthieu Bonhomme's 5-volume Marquis of Anaon series. Bonhomme's gorgeous art is the shining light here -beautifully shown off in the original album format/size- and worth the entry price alone. Vehlmann is no slouch though, and his stories of young  Jean-Baptiste Poulain who travels from place to place for to learn and experience and inevitably become embroiled in some problem, are solidly empathetic. In this second book, Jean-Baptiste arrives in central France to investigate the deaths of two young women. Both were killed a year apart in the same barbaric, ritual way, their bodies left near the Black Virgin Chapel. Once again, it's up to Jean-Baptiste to negotiate the high feelings and theories of various interested parties as he aims to get to the truth. Really looking forward to just sitting down and being immersed in the beauty of this once it's out.

Curveball by Jeremy Sorese, Nobrow: Jeremy Sorese is of those cartoonists I'm aware of largely because they work in animation- in Sorese's case, Steven Universe, for which he also co-created the popular and very good comic book. I haven't read much of his original work, but from what I've seen of this new, mammoth, 420-page black and white book, it certainly looks the absolute business. I'm always interested to read books on the relationship between humans and robots, too (robot feelings do it for me), of which this is one. 'After years of technological advancement, the relationship between humans and robots is changing. In the midst of this turmoil, one woman faces her own breakdown at the hands of a manipulative friend. Jeremy Sorese explores how heartbreak can make us feel like the center of the universe and how the realization that we are not is often more painful than the heartbreak itself.'

Graphic Ink: Darwyn Cooke, DC: You may remember last June I wrote about DC's collection of Frank Quietly's work, which took me by surprise by being very good. The material collected was wide-ranging and worthwhile: comics that were hard to find or had otherwise gone out of print, his cover work, and so forth; the hardback was sturdy and nicely bound, and it was priced reasonably for what it was. This 400 page Darwyn Cooke collection is a continuation of that spotlight series, although there's little information on what's contained within. I'm a big fan of Cooke's art, and since DC have gained some goodwill with the Quietly collection, I'm going to trust them in producing something of similar high quality here. I think it's unlikely it'll include The New Frontier, but perhaps Batman: Ego will be in there as a shorter story. Hopefully none of the Before Watchmen stuff. I'd really love if they collected all those landscape variant covers he did for them -they were stunning and would be quite something to see in this oversized format.

Last Man 3 The Chase by Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, Balak, First Second: The third book of the hugely enjoyable Last Man comics releases this month. Volume 2 ended on a bit of a cliffhanger after the end of the fighting tournament, and it seems like this may be the installment that provides readers with some answers in terms of what's going on regards to time and setting and the smushing of modern and archaic worlds. The Chase promises to focus more on Adrian and his mother Marianne as the story moves beyond the haven of the Valley of the Kings for the first time: 'Magic and mysteries and some super-strange people await them as they set off on their latest adventure.' Expect thrills, topsy-turviness, and some of the most stunningly dynamic and fluid art you'll see.

Master Keaton 4 by Naoki Urasawa, Hokusei Katsushika, and Takashi Nagasaki, Viz: Every time I write or discuss Master Keaton, I reassess my feelings towards it. Keaton is the monolithic 'good man' that you'll see frequently in Urasawa's work: an archaeology professor, a gifted insurance investigator, a former SAS man, but what I like about this series is it's ostensibly about people and human nature. Keaton's sideline investigations and training make him the ideal vessel for these people and stories to filter through, and even though they can feel a bit on the nose, they're still emotionally resonant (I mean; I cried). Book 4 sees the return of Keaton's delightful dad in one story, as he moves into a building where all the tenants blame themselves for one of the residents suicide. Just a really affirming and good comic, cartooned to great levels by Urasawa.

Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Dark Horse: Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba return with Two Brothers, an adaption of  a work by acclaimed novelist Milton Hatoum. I'm not generally sold on book to comic adaptations -particularly where the label of 'literary' is involved, but Moon and Ba do interesting work so this is worth a look at least. 'Twin brothers Omar and Yaqub may share the same features, but they could not be more different. And the possessive love of their mother, Zana, stirs the troubled waters between them even more. After a brutally violent exchange between the young boys, Yaqub, 'the good son,' is sent from his home in Brazil to live with relatives in Lebanon, only to return five years later as a virtual stranger to the parents who bore him, his tensions with Omar unchanged. Family secrets engage the reader in this profoundly resonant story about identity, love, loss, deception, and the dissolution of blood ties.' 

Rat God by Richard Corben, published by Dark Horse: The trade paperback collection of Richard Corben's Rat God mini-series, which I've been waiting for. Look at that grotesque face on the cover! Corben is the master of combining flesh-crawling horror with a squirmy realism even his people look ripe and 'off.' You know terrible things are afoot before being shown a monster of any kind. Lovecraft bores me, but since this is Corben, I hope that's minimal in overt involvement, and that the comic's as good as some of his other shorter books. 'Terrible things stalk the forests outside Arkham in this chilling original tale from comics master Richard Corben! An arrogant city slicker on a quest to uncover the background of a young woman from the backwoods finds horrors beyond imagining, combining Lovecraftian mutations with Native American legends.'

Bad Machinery 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison, Oni Press:  It's curious how often John Allison is overlooked as one of contemporary cartoonings excellent practitioners. Perhaps it's because his work and style is deemed youth-orientated, or because he works online (the double knell of snobbery in comics), or that consistency is undervalued over the search for fresh new things. But there are few cartoonists who have developed such a unified and cohesive language and world, from dialogue to expression to tone and colour and line. And he gets better, as is apparent to anyone who has been following his comics for a while. This makes the print editions of Bad Machinery indispensable, and now we're on book 4, we're getting to some of the real, good, oniony stuff. 'A new school year brings a new classmate to Griswald's Grammar School! But he's a bit strange, and he really, really likes onions. When the whole school suddenly becomes best friends with him, Shauna seems to be the only one left out. It's up to her to peel back the mystery, one onion layer at a time.'

Also releasing: Assassination Classroom volume7, Kenya volume 5, Appleseed Alpha, Oyster War, Iscariot

Friday, 2 October 2015

Sunny 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto: to be unreachable, by kindness or hope

Sunny volume 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto, translated by Michael Arias, lettered by Deron Bennett, Viz

Taiyo Matsumoto is due to wrap up serialisation of his comic, Sunny, in Japan this month. Centering around a group of children living at a halfway/foster house, the comics take their name from the dilapidated yellow Nissan Datsun 'Sunny' in which the kids play and take refuge. Viz have been releasing some very nicely designed (by Fawn Lau) English-language translations of the book, the fifth volume of which was published in July this year. It seems likely then, that the 6th volume will be the final one, collecting the closing chapters of the story. In many ways, Sunny feels like the most accessible and commercial of Matsumoto's (translated) works; with a subject matter and clarity in approach that lends favourably to literary association. Traditionally linear, it's rooted in the real, and largely free from some of the more surreal elements and quirks inhabiting his other books.

The children of Star Kids Home are resident there for various reasons: some are orphans, others parents have abandoned them, or are incapable of taking care of them due to illness or financial circumstance. Confusion, uncertainty and the cruel tremulousness of hope abound as the kids attempt to negotiate their in-flux status. The individual personalities of the children provides a range of reactions for Matsumoto to explore: Sei's polite, quiet, resoluteness; Junsuke's dreamy remove; Haruo's hurt, angry rebellion; Megumu's inverted contemplation. Sunny moves from child to child with each chapter, sharing an event or moment that provides insight into  both the character of focus, and life in a care home. Looked down upon by their peers at school and pitied by society, Matsumoto presents starkly the import and impact of human connections to a group of children grasping for a foothold of recognisable stability. They are children who just want their mums and dads; the comfort and assurance of family, home, and belonging. 

But when someone you love leaves you, it doesn't just make you question them, but yourself. Especially when, in their absence, that's all you're left to engage with. The wrench of disappointment and rejection mingles with a dismantling of identity; who you are, what you know (or thought you knew), where your place is. Growing up is a tough prospect to negotiate in a normative sense, and for Sei, Junsuke, Megumu, Haruo, and the others, it's doubly so; a state of internal scrutiny, of rebuilding and reformation; reassessing the world around them to regain a semblance of autonomy and control. The difficulty of this negotiation is acutely exemplified by Haruo, who rails woundedly at his lot, but carries a totemic tin of Nivea cream around with him to conjure up the smell of his mother at any instant. For her part, Megumu chooses not to go live with a nice couple because the death of her parents, her grief, and still being able to feel their presence via their absence, is something she wants to give time to. We are all more than the sum of our situations.

What I appreciate most in Matsumoto's work is the ability to speak to painful truths, to see unflinchingly, and yet to retain a degree of affirmation. And that's not limited to topic: his very style of drawing is a reflection of that approach. Matsumoto's art is sometimes referred to as surreal, but there's a difference between illustrating the imagined and dreamed up, and that being a facet of your style. If anything, he aims for a realism in keeping with traditional illustration- albeit with a unique bent. However, he treads a line where the deliberate framing and presentation used to slow pace for emphasis or contemplation (whatever he wants to draw the reader's attention to) leads to a staticness of sorts. A child yelling is a child with his mouth perpetually frozen open. Hair lifted by the wind hovers there indefinitely. It compromises movement in terms of both dynamism and flow. Combined with the many tight panels of eyes (on which a whole other article could be devoted) and faces, there is a feeling of signposting: meaningful moment ahead! The effect is indie movie-like: a beautifully cool, ponderous aesthetic that Matsumoto offsets by employing it in the service of good, genuine material. It helps that his art not only conveys, but contains, palpable emotion: poignancy and wistfulness that jabs at your chest.

Matsumoto's art is attractive in that it's ultimately pleasing to the eye, though it may not always seem like it'll get there. People, things, and environments are recognisably rendered with a strange, meandering, curling line. Character and a distinct individuality teem from the page. He has a fondness of depicting circles of colour in ruddy or delicate cheeks, a firm affinity for snot; hatching and lines work away to define a range of features usually forgotten. The pools of black ink here are softened by an array of textures  (that conversely also work to ground Matsumoto's work, adding body and weight) and the less harsh contrast of the cream paper. There is an inherent dreaminess to his drawings, a tone or lens that's almost romantic; a quality that's more emphatically manifest in Sunny. It may be difficult to to do in real life, but on the page Matsumoto manages to see the beauty in everything, irrespective of appearance. 

Sunny divvies out small solaces: moments of trust, connection, knowledge, humour, hope; without ever feeling like a blatant grab for your emotional gonads. For the children, the present is forever stretching out into the distance; this time feels like the only time. They live in the nook between change feeling impossible and the belief that change alone can alter and improve current circumstance. It is there that Sunny's sweet melancholic heart is to be found: a stoic Junsuke rewarded with a phonecall to his mum when poorly. Sei's meticulously planned, devastating, run-back-home itinerary: '...Call Star Kids Home and apologise for worrying them. Buy flowers for mother... Go to father's workshop. Go home together.' Kenji alone again after the brief budding of a relationship. Haruo being told he's lucky he ended up at a home where he's not beaten. There are no bad guys in Sunny; nobody to blame or fault. It is nothing smaller or bigger than life, as it aches and appeals. This happens, and that, too.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Tillie Walden to release new book 'I Love This Part' at Thought Bubble 2015

Tillie Walden will be following up her hugely impressive debut comic book, The End of Summer, with a new work, I Love This Part, this November. Set to release at the Thought Bubble comics festival in Leeds, where Walden will be in attendance, the book will again be published by rising British comics imprint Avery Hill. I've not had the opportunity to sit down and give proper consideration to a piece on The End of Summer (although I hope to do so before Thought Bubble), an atmospheric, quasi-fantasy centering on a curious family closed in in a huge castle, but suffice to say it was one of the most excitingly assured debut books I've read in a long while. Readers may be familiar with Walden's work via a popular comic published online via her Tumblr, in which two young girls connect over their love for the cartoon show, Steven Universe. It's always thrilling to discover new comic creators, and what's so exciting about Walden's arrival on the comics scene is that her work, ideas, and style already feel quite whole and developed, making it fresh, yet familiar in level of quality.

As you can see from the (non-consecutive) preview images released by Avery Hill, I Love This Part focuses on the relationship and connection that grows between 2 young girls slogging their way through school in a small American town, as they watch videos, share earbuds, play each other songs, and exchange their stories. Walden's a remarkable emerging talent, and if you're going to be at Thought Bubble, I'd put this and The End of the Summer at the top of your list of things to check out. For readers in the USA, Avery Hill and Retrofit Comics recently announced a transatlantic deal that sees each outfit distribute the others books, which means Walden's books will be available on the online Retrofit store (The End of Summer is already listed).

Sunday, 20 September 2015

2015 Ignatz awards celebrate cartoonists at forefront of the medium

The 2015 Ignatz awards took place yesterday evening in Bethesda, Maryland, as part of the SPX comics convention. The big winner of the night was Sophia Foster-Dimino, who took home 3 'brick' trophies for 'promising new talent,' 'outstanding series' (for Sex Fantasy), and 'outstanding mini-comic', while Sophie Goldstein triumphed in both the 'outstanding graphic novel' and 'outstanding comic' categories with her dystopian sci-fi tale, The Oven. Rounding out the winner's roster were Emily Carroll, Jillian Tamaki, Eleanor Davis, and Lilli Carre. It was, I believe, the first time in the awards 19 year history that all the winners were women.

There'll no doubt be much focus on that fact alone: that the awards were all won by female cartoonists, and as great and important as that is, the bit that annoys me about that sort of line or perspective is the still assumptive 'hey, women can make comics too!' I think we're beyond the engagement of those reductive stances (although I'm equally as sure there'll be those who never get past it), and I think these awards are some evidence towards that fact. Yes, the awards were all won by female cartoonists, but what's more striking is that they were all won by excellent cartoonists, full-stop. Taking a look at the winning line-up  -Emily Carroll, Jillian Sophia Tamaki, Foster-Dimino, Sophie Goldstein, Eleanor Davis, Lilli Carre- presents you with a selection of cartoonists at the forefront of contemporary comics today; the artists who are producing the most interesting and superb work; work which is having the most resonance within the medium and with audiences. And it was just so satisfying and thrilling to see that recognised and celebrated.

Congratulations to all nominated. Below you can find a full list of categories and nominees, with winners marked in bold

Outstanding Artist
Emily Carroll for Through the Woods
Ed Luce for Wuvable Oaf
Roman Muradov for (In a Sense) Lost and Found
Jillian Tamaki for SuperMutant Magic Academy
Noah Van Sciver for Saint Cole

Outstanding Anthology or Collection
Drawn and Quarterly: 25 Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics and Graphic Novels, edited by Tom Devlin, Chris Oliveros, Peggy Burns, Tracy Hurren and Julia Pohl-Miranda
An Entity Observes All Things, by Box Brown
How to Be Happy, by Eleanor Davis
Pope Hats #4, by Ethan Rilly
SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki

Outstanding Graphic Novel
Beauty by Kerascoët and Hubert
The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
Rav by Mickey Zacchilli
Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver
Wendy by Walter Scott

Outstanding Story
Doctors by Dash Shaw
Me As a Baby by Michael DeForge (from Lose #6)
Nature Lessons by Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger (from The Late Child and Other Animals)
Sex Coven by Jillian Tamaki
Weeping Flower, Grows in Darkness, by Kris Mukai

Promising New Talent
M. Dean for K.M. & R.P. & MCMLXXI (1971)
Sophia Foster-Dimino- for Sphincter, Sex Fantasy
Dakota McFadzean for Don’t Get Eaten by Anything
Jane Mai for Soft
Gina Wynbrandt for Big Pussy

Outstanding Series
Dumb by Georgia Webber
Frontier edited by Ryan Sands
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly
Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino

Outstanding Comic
Borb by Jason Little
The Nature of Nature by Disa Wallander
The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
Pope Hats #4 by Ethan Rilly
Weeping Flower Grows in Darkness, by Kris Mukai

Outstanding Minicomic
Devil’s Slice of Life by Patrick Crotty
Epoxy 5 by John Pham
King Cat #75 by John Porcellino
Sex Fantasy #4 by Sophia Foster-Dimino
Whalen: A Reckoning by Audry

Outstanding Online Comic
The Bloody Footprint by Lilli Carre
Carriers by Lauren Weinstein
Mom Body by Rebecca Roher
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti
Witchy by Ariel Ries

Sophia Foster-Dimino

(via Comics Beat)

Friday, 18 September 2015

Juliette Oberndorfer's gorgeous 'The woman and the lion' illustration series

It's my duty to share exceptional art wherever I see it, and it's something I like doing on a Friday more than anything: to end the week/start the weekend on a good note. I've been looking at Juliette Oberndorfer's work- there's a collection of the French artist's work here -all of which is worth perusing- but I thought I'd spotlight a series of seemingly connected illustrations featuring a lion and a woman. Oberndrofer is a concept artist, background designer, and illustrator; currently working largely in animation in Canada. You should watch Lux, a beautifully unsettling 4-minute animation about a strange creature caught in a time-loop of actions and consequences, that she created in 2013. 

There are 5 paintings in which the lion and the woman appear- a stunning, dreamy set that you could look at for long stretches of time, and into which Oberndrofer intimates so much it feels like you've been on a journey with these images. The meeting between woman and beast is at first tentative and suspicious, and as depicted never truly comes together, although some level of understanding is reached; a connection made. I love several aspects here: the fluidity and layering of shapes, the use of texture, and the colours. The colours, especially, are gorgeously employed. The greens and blues for the lion are an unusual but striking choice; impactful and harmonious, lending him majesty and power in a way beyond expected associations. The lines on his face and mane in the first picture provide depth, movement, and body, and a unique point of interest as his presence fills the sky. The colours get richer and more vibrant in the three 'repose' images: purples, plums, lilacs, shot through with turquoise and aqua, with pops of coral and red that set off just enough contrast. Everything bristles with vibrant life. The colours and layering add to the wonder and density of the jungle in a very simple but effective way. Significantly, the last illustration presents a return to normalcy; an end. The lion is again traditionally brown and in relatively correct proportion; the trees and foliage green. A quiet, sedate beauty. The magic and marvel is over. 

Gotham Academy: adventure and mystery abound as Gotham gets a shōjo Scooby gang

Gotham Academy volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl

One of the difficulties of working with a large and steeped mythology is the maintenance of balance. Creating a new comic set in Gotham, the city of the Batman, presents its own series of mulling points: choosing what to include, how much you would like to reference what already exists within that world, whether it fits tonally with what you're doing, how closely associated you'd like it to be. With Gotham Academy, Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl have produced a story that is essentially a solidly entertaining boarding school mystery/adventure book. What's clever about it is the expected genre elements such as the ghost, the mental asylum, the monster, etc., have been given a Gotham spin: the ghost is purported to be that of Millie-Jean Cobblepot (an ancestor of the Penguin's), the asylum is Arkham, and so on. This works particularly well because these facets are largely secondary: brought in to facilitate the main, original narrative rather than it being dependent on them; their use is organic, and doesn't feel heavy-handed (were you to remove the 'Gothamisation' factor, the story would still function). As it is, this carefully managed negotiation and pulling in of characters, places and nuggets to serve the story allows the book to assert a clear, individual identity, without labouring under the burden of the Bat.

A new term has begun at Gotham's prestigious boarding academy, but Olive Silverlock is finding it difficult to simply slot in to the role and place she occupied before the events of the summer. The changes she's going through are major -the kind that alter you as a person- but the exact nature of these personally seismic matters is unclear, although it seems related to her mother. She's left with a deep sense of unmooring as things and people that previously felt reassuring seem less so. Olive's somewhat distracted from her worried preoccupation and gaps in memory by  the irrepressible 'Maps' Mizoguchi- -probably her best friend and also her boyfriend Kyle's younger sister, and the only person who doesn't view her differently because of what happened. Maps, so-called because of her affinity with her namesake, rpg's puzzles, live-action scenarios, is adamant they investigate the influx of strange happenings at the school.  Students are jittery about a ghost sighting, the descriptions of which are at odd with the gleaming eyes of a presumably different monster living within the walls. All this in addition to a secret cabal of some sort running around the grounds late at night...

Gotham Academy treads a deft line in tone; it's genial, light, and engagingly suspenseful in the best tradition of Nancy Drew or Mallory Towers (with a dash of Hogwarts) -an amalgamation of mystery and an almost epistolary diary format (the latter by way of internal monologue). Olive's uncertain mindset helps to believably put the  reader in a position of not knowing too much, whilst astutely tapping into a thread that has a directly parallel interpretation of the heredity of illness, specifically mental illness (a theme compounded by Millie-Jean Oswald's diary recountings on the labelled 'madness' of articulate young women). The more general area of young people finding themselves and their paths is interwoven with an exploration of stability and self that spools into a discussion of choice and nature: can you decide who and what you want to be, or is it already writ. A first volume doesn't always leave room for layer and nuance with regards to characterisation, but Cloonan and Fletcher keep things smart by with a relatively tight cast, giving readers a solid feeling for each person via their interactions and dialogue, with attributes and decisions beyond the categorisations of 'good' and 'bad'. Olive's and Maps' complimentary personalities and relationship are at the core of this appealing dynamic, with Pomeline, Colton, Heathcliff, and Kyle rounding out a spirited and determined Scooby gang.

Karl Kersch's art is fundamental in anchoring the simultaneously fun and spooky ambience. In many ways Kerschl's style takes its cues from shōjo manga (the dashing, mysterious Bruce Wayne is straight up shōjo-fodder) particularly in character design and faces, but also in dramatic pacing. Kerschl's fashion-savvy, too, using clothes to infer personality. Maps' pixie cut, yellow backpack, hairclip and shoes are cheerily and instantly recognisable; with her innate confidence it's easy to see why she's quickly become such an emblematic character of the series. Philomena's kick-ass attitude is carefully put together with distressed luxe clothing; Colton exudes a louche, young Matt Murdock air, whilst Kyle operates much like the xenomorph in the first Alien film: the less he's shown, the more you want to see him. Unlike the xenomorph, he somehow pulls off a ridiculous white visor and preppy sports clothes, yet manages to remain attractive, which is no mean feat.

The effort to shake up panelling arrangements and page layouts is admirable, with an eye to injecting dynamism and mood, but often isn't convincingly executed -a cutaway rain spread with magnified/zoomed in panels that doesn't gel, for example, or sudden incoherent diagonal tilts. It's not a huge eyesore, but enough to be noticeable: it can feel a bit emptily frenetic at times. There are strong Batman: The Animated Series leanings later in the book when Killer Croc turns up, the more traditionally cartoony rendering conversely bringing things into sharper focus. It's another wise choice- not opting for the grittier route: BTAS was renowned for its ability to harness emotional depth and resonance and deal with a range of subjects whilst being entertaining and affirming, and that seems appropriately aligned here.

There's often a wariness when companies such as DC declare their intentions to put out a book that's 'fresh' and 'new,' more so, perhaps, when it's linked to an ongoing mythos and the publisher is ideally looking to please readers old and curious. Often the result is a book that gives precedence to the source material, shoe-horning as much of that in first, with some original elements papered over as an afterthought. To that end, Gotham Academy is remarkably baggage-free. It succeeds because it has its own story to tell, and because it's told well. It's to the authors collective credit that it can be easily read and enjoyed by anyone: not requiring an encyclopedic pre-knowledge, nor dragging readers along in service of some larger, ongoing narrative. This first volume is lively and fun; deftly combining a swirl of various genre aspects and Bat-verse influences to rise as a solid school-based mystery/adventure with a distinct identity. I hope it continues down a similar route.

Koyama Press offer choice contemporary cartooning with spring 2016 slate

With the release of their last few fall books impending, Koyama Press unveiled their spring 2016 line-up yesterday. Once again showcasing a range of contemporary comics talent, the slate includes a collection of early comics from Aidan Koch (The Blonde Woman), a new story about a strange, supernatural apartment from Patrick Kyle (Distance Mover), and a first translated work from the publisher: What is Obscenity The Story of A Good For Nothing Artist and her Pussy. That book follows the story/memoir of Japanese artist  Rokudenashiko, who made headlines worldwide earlier this year when she was put on trial for obscenity charges after crowd-funding an art project which involved her distributing digital files containing 3D scans of her genitalia to people in return for donations to fund a larger sculptural piece: a kayak modelled on her vagina.

Koyama also announced new books from Cathy G. Johnson and Ben Sears, two cartoonists whose work I especially enjoy and am excited to hear of. Johnson's Gorgeous 'delineates the complexity of adolescence in crushed metal and starry nights. Ideologies and cars collide when a minor accident brings a pair of punks and a college student tumultuously together. Sophie has tried to stay out of trouble, but tonight trouble has found her. On a lonely stretch of highway under a star-studded sky, she meets anarchist punks in a crack-up of metal and emotion that proves sometimes the freedom of youth causes damage along the way.' Johnson also has a book upcoming with First Second in 2017, and it's fantastic to see the power of her evocative work -particularly where it pertains to younger, formative audiences- being recognised.

Ben Sears' full colour Night Air  will be a 64 page book released as part of Koyama's children's line (inaugurated last year with John Martz's Esiner nominated A Cat Named Tim, and Britt Wilson's Cat-Dad, King of the Goblins). Due in May 2016, it features the characters from his Double + comic: a young boy and his robot, out exploring the wide world. Most of Sears comics so far has been in black and white, but short stories such as the one he did for the Wacom Pressure/Sensitivity anthology, and a recent Adventure Time back-up shows that colour adds a whole other dimension to his art, and it's something I'm looking forward to seeing in longer form. 'Plus Man is a roguish knave without equal, an antihero in his own mind. His coolheaded robot, however, knows better. This odd couple has just been given a break: a tip on a score of valuable alloy. The catch? The alloy is in a haunted castle. One really haunted castle. The boundless adventures of an unruly boy, his rational robot and their great gadgets filled with fantastic science stuff!'

Koyama are one of the publishers for whom I hope (and would urge) more and more people check out their catalogue and books. For anyone who appreciates comics, they're one of the very few publishers who you can truly say don't have a house style or 'type' of book/artist; their commitment seems to be to simply put out work that's interesting and very good -it's truly an artistically diverse range, from the alternative and experimental to humour, frenetic kids adventure, strip collections and beyond. I'm not saying that every single one of their books hits the mark for me, but they continually keep things fresh,  take chances, and introduce me to new people and work. I really appreciate that they give so much support to younger artists, too. You can find further details on each of the upcoming releases at the Koyama Press website.